Campus Life

UWF holds first Student Scholars Symposium

By Lauren Haggett, University Communications

More than 150 University of West Florida students participated in the first-ever Student Scholars Symposium April 21 to showcase their hard work and give the public a chance to see it as well. The symposium replaced SEASTARS, or Scholars of Engineering, Applied Sciences & Technology Annual Research Symposium, this year. In the past, SEASTARS only allowed students from certain disciplines to participate; however, this year’s Student Scholars Symposium was open to all students.

Community members and university students, faculty and staff were invited to tour the symposium to view the projects and speak with the students. Visual and performing arts students entertained the crowd by performing on the stage in the UWF Field House throughout the day. In addition, a few students gave 20-minute oral presentations about their projects.

“The Symposium is a great opportunity for students of all disciplines to showcase their work,” said Pamela Pippin Vaughan, Ph.D. and director of the Office of Undergraduate Research. “It is exciting to see what the students have been working so hard on throughout the year.”

Freshman Ruth Ashley and sophomore Tabatha Duscharme, both honor students, showcased their project titled, “The Prevalence of Corn in Today’s Economy.” Their interactive, colorful presentation attracted many symposium visitors.

Two students studying electronic and computer programming, Brandon Walker and Michel Starr, showed off their work titled, “Hardware/Software Interfacing of an Indoor Navigation System: Auto-pilot Reconnaissance Quad-Copter.” They explained how Auto-pilot Reconnaissance Quad-Copters can be very useful in situations where it is not safe for humans. For instance, quad-copters similar to the one Walker and Starr worked on are being used in the Japan earthquake aftermath to test radiation levels.

“I definitely see the importance of the Student Scholars Symposium,” said Elise McWilliams, a senior honor student in communication arts. “It gives students an outlet to show off their hard work. Some students do research for years on these topics, so it’s great to let the public come see how far they’ve come.”

McWilliams showcased her public relations plan that she devised for Camp Fire USA. She has been volunteering with Camp Fire USA for more than four years, so choosing the non-profit organization as her honors thesis project was easy.

“The symposium is a culmination of what a collegiate academic experience should produce, “said Ashley Roberts, program coordinator for the Office of Undergraduate Research. “I think it is important for professors to recognize the desire of willing students to hold a larger part in the academic community than what is offered in the classroom. We have created the Student Scholars Symposium as a way to recognize these high achieving students in a public manner.”

The winners from the Student Scholars Symposium are as follows:

Undergraduate Only – Kristen Rowland for “Rhetorical Criticism of the Exclusion of a Lane Bryant Commercial Ad”

Graduate Only – David Hunter – “Presidential Approval Rating in Response to Significant Events”

Visual and Performing Arts – Nicole Dickson and Keegan Stull for “Selected Scene(s) from Moliere’s Comedy Tartuffe”

Undergraduate Collaborative – Michael Norberg, Joseph Tarnecki, Joshua Neese, and William Patterson for “Trophic Ecology and Population Dynamics of Tomate, Haemulon Aurolineatum, on the Northern Gulf of Mexico Continental Shelf”

Graduate Collaborative Tie: Elizabeth Kennedy, Karen Cravero, Kristen Hellein and Joe Lepo – “Efficiency of Light Sources for PMA Activation to Distinguish Live vs. Dead Cells Using qPCR”

Sara Senkbeil, Amy Underwood, Brandon Webb, Jared Crittendon and Lisa Van Wormer – “The Roles of Visual Short-Term Memory and Working Memory in Change Detection”

Pensacola Archaeological Society – Charity Vander Wall for “Cross Cultural Communications in a Clinical Environment: A Common Ground between Anthropology and Biological Health Sciences”

For more information about the Student Scholars Symposium or the Office of Undergraduate Research, contact Ashley Roberts at 474-2934 or